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Mon, August 7, 2006 : Last updated 20:05 pm (Thai local time)

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Home > Headlines > Abhisit pressures PM to TV debate

Abhisit pressures PM to TV debate

ABHISIT Vejjajiva chairs a Democrat seminar in Bangkok yesterday.
Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday again challenged caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to a live TV showdown - something Thai voters would love to see most, according to the latest opinion poll.

"If Prime Minister Thaksin is confident in Thai Rak Thai policies, please see me on television so that people can see and compare the differences," Abhisit said at a major seminar on his party's policies.

Of the 2,812 people in 15 provinces surveyed in an Abac poll from July 28 to August 5, 85 per cent said they were keen to hear what the party leaders had to say to each other on TV.

The most interesting issues for the TV debate are how politicians could expand royally initiated projects [95.6 per cent], how they could further materialise His Majesty's popular Self-sufficiency Economy [95.5 per cent], how the political leaders could bring about national reconciliation [94.8 per cent] and how they would tackle corruption [93.5 per cent].

The following issues were chosen in descending order: alternative fuels; drug abuse; poverty; violence in the South; long-term health promotion; and improvement in the quality of life for youth.

Asked who should organise such a debate, 36.4 per cent of respondents chose the election watchdog PNet, 19.6 per cent said the media and 15.6 per cent preferred educational institutes. The debate should be held three times, according to the poll.

Asked whether they thought the general election would solve the political crisis, 74.7 per cent said yes while another 11.6 per cent thought not.

Abhisit, knowing his disadvantage after five years of Thai Rak Thai domination, hopes a TV showdown with Thaksin could be a short-cut route to boost the Democrats' stagnant popularity.

He had complained about a lack of media exposure during Thaksin's reign, and is facing an uphill battle in trying to match Thai Rak Thai's marketing power in the run-up to the October 15 election.

His party plans to attack Thaksin's weakest points during the short campaign, including corruption, checks and balances, moral leadership and leaders' political openness.

Judicial reform will be part of the Democrat Party's policies to create a moral society, Abhisit said yesterday.

Besides conventional legal channels against crooked politicians, the Democrats would advocate "people's power" to go after corrupt officials. "Thai citizens should have the right to bring corrupt politicians to justice," he said.

"No longer can the politicians sit on their guilt and hope to get away with it once cases expire. No longer can anyone interfere with the justice mechanisms like the police, prosecutors or the National Counter Corruption Commission to prevent the cases against them from reaching the court," he said.

Last Monday, Thaksin questioned the credibility of the judiciary, after the courts issued a string of rulings that dealt blows to his party. The Constitution Court also is set to deliberate major election fraud cases against Thai Rak Thai and the Democrats, which could result in the disbanding of either party or both.

Following Thaksin's criticism, the secretary to the Supreme Court president said there had been attempts to interfere in the judicial process from people with state power and money. Sometimes they rely on unlawful tactics to issue the threats, such as organised mobs.

Democrat deputy secretary-general Thaworn Senneam had succeeded in his legal campaign against the Election Commission's three controversial members, who have been sentenced to four years in jail. Thaworn filed the case as a Thai citizen, not a party executive.

Abhisit yesterday chaired his party's seminar on the "People's Agenda" at the Miracle Grand Hotel with 300 party executives, key members and academics attending.

Participants were asked to share their ideas and experiences in the local elections to improve the policies before Abhisit officially announces them on Wednesday.

The programme moderator Chaiwat Thiraphanthu said the Democrats had learned much and realised the importance of people's political participation after its People's Assembly last year, and after they had seen people's roles during the political crisis in the past year.

The People's Agenda, Abhisit said, included solving poverty by increasing minimum wages, reducing oil, cooking gas and electricity prices as well as establishing the sufficiency economy fund, to give financial support to people who follow the sufficiency economy principles. Moreover, the policies would include free education, textbooks, milk and supplemental foods for kindergartens. It will promote a quality universal healthcare scheme with no charge.

Abhisit said the party would also push for laws to protect media professionals from being sued by politicians who only want to cover their crimes.

The Democrat Party last month launched television spots to promote its leader and policies, with the slogan "We put the people first". It was the first political party to start campaigning for the election while its main opponent, the incumbent Thai Rak Thai Party, has been largely silent.

Kornchanok Raksaseri

The Nation

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